Diane, “We provided housing”

Diane helped homestead her building in 1980 through LESCAC (Lower East Side Catholic Area Conference), a now-defunct Catholic Charities organization. She, alongside other volunteers, worked on a sweat equity project rehabbing 11 buildings in the Lower East Side through LESAC’s homesteading process. In return, they could buy into and own one of the units. The land on which the buildings stood was also turned into a community land trust, the RAIN Community Land Trust. The rehab process was grueling and dangerous but hardened her resolve to stay in New York and built a sense of interreliance with her neighbors. They finished the sweat equity process after five years, longer than initially expected. The building was initially self-managed but they encountered challenges. After LESAC went under, the co-op partnered with UHAB. Diane has served as the co-op board’s secretary for many years. None of the original shareholders have sold their apartments.

The risks of homesteading

Volunteering as homesteaders in the Lower East Side